How did Hz. Muhammad (PBUH) earn his living after he became a prophet? Did the Prophet become rich? Is it possible for the Prophet, who was also the head of the state, to be poor?
The Prophet (pbuh) was engaged in trade before his marriage; he continued being engaged with trade with the wealth of Hz. Khadija after his marriage. (see Salih Suruç, Peygamberimizin Hayatı, Mekke devri, p, 143)
The Prophet (pbuh) worked as a shepherd when he was a child and was engaged in trade when he was young. After he became a prophet, he practiced the religion sent by Allah and informed people about it. He spent his remaining life doing this mission.
The Prophet was in charge of a religion and an ummah. Therefore, he carried out a duty that encompassed all aspects of life. He was the commander-in-chief in wars, the administrator of the ummah of Muhammad, a judge in settling the problems and a teacher in arranging the worldly and otherworldly affairs; thus, he lived as a leader and served his people like that.
Therefore, he received a certain amount from the booty and continued his life without needing any money from others. However, he lived like a poor person even if he could have lived as a rich person due to trade and booty.
It is determined by verses that a certain amount of the income of the booty be given to the Prophet (pbuh) and his family. For, zakah could not be given to him and his family. However, he was hungry most of the time and he sometimes wrapped a stone around his abdomen due to hunger. He always distributed the presents that were sent to him to the poor. A person who reads his life will see numerous examples of it.
While trying to spread Islam to the whole world, the Prophet (pbuh) obtained many boons like conquests and victories. However, when he entered a city after the conquest, he never acted conceitedly; he proceeded humbly. He would enter the city in a plain manner without any ceremony.
When he conquered Khaybar, the biggest castle and settlement place of the Jews, he entered the city on a donkey with a halter made of thin rope although he had conquered the most fertile land of Arabia at that time and had booty that filled the Treasury.
When the Prophet (pbuh) entered Makkah after its conquest, he never acted conceitedly though he was a victorious commander. He bent his head down to Allah so much on his camel that his beard almost touched the saddle of his camel out of humbleness. He prayed as follows on his camel:
"O Allah! Life is only life in the hereafter."
While he was going to Farewell Hajj, he had a piece of velvet worth of four dirhams on his back and there was a torn mattress instead of a saddle on his camel. Even in that situation, he prayed as follows, feeling worried that he would be hypocritical:
"O Allah! Make my state away from hypocrisy and show off."
In fact, he was not poor. He defeated big armies, conquered a lot of places and obtained a lot of booties. He even sacrificed one hundred camels in this hajj.
The Prophet (pbuh) was very humble when he was with his family and at home. Besides, he led a very plain life. He sometimes helped his wives with the housework. He mended his own clothes and shoes; he took care of his own work. He would sweep the house, tie and feed his camel and milk the sheep; he would do his own shopping and carry his things himself. He would sit and eat with his servant and knead dough with him.
Some of the examples showing the examples of humbleness of the last Messenger of Allah:
The Prophet (pbuh) showed all kinds of humbleness and its ideal form in his life. He led the most accepted way of modesty and humbleness that nobody could lead and reach. Although he is the most superior of all creatures and the one with the highest rank and degree, and he is praised by his Lord many times in the Quran, he never used the privilege of being a prophet and never tried to show himself to be superior to other people.
He showed this high ethical attitude to both his family members and his Companions as well as the people who were not Muslims yet. Thus, he caused many people to find the right path.
When Allah Almighty left him free to be a prophet that is a king or a prophet that is a slave, he chose to be "a prophet that is a slave". Thereupon, Hz. Israfil said to the Prophet "Doubtlessly, Allah gave you that property too since you acted humbly. You are the master of the people on the Day of Judgment. You will be the first person to come out of the grave when the earth is split and the first person to intercede." After that, the Prophet (pbuh) did not eat food by lying down. He said,
"I will eat in the same way as a slave eats. I will sit in the same way as a slave sits."
Once, the Messenger of Allah went toward the Companions by leaning on his staff. When the Companions saw that he arrived, they stood up at once. The Prophet (pbuh) did not like this attitude and warned them as follows:
"Do not stand up for me to show respect like the people of other nations stand up. For, I am a slave that eats like a slave and that sits like a slave."
The Prophet (pbuh) did not usually like those who wanted to kiss his hand and who showed him too much respect.
Once, Abu Hurayra was with him while he was shopping. Abu Hurayra narrates:
“Once, the Prophet (pbuh) paid more money for the clothes than they were worth to the salesman. The man wanted to kiss the Prophet’s hand. The Prophet moved his hand away and warned him as follows:
‘The other nations do this to their kings. I am not a king. I am a person like you.’"
Abu Hurayra continued: "Then, he took the clothes. I wanted to carry them. He said to me,
‘A person should carry his own things. However, if he cannot carry, his Muslim brother will help him.’"
The Prophet (pbuh) did his own work himself. He did not want other people to serve him.
Amir bin Rabia narrates:
"I was going to the mosque with the Prophet. His shoelaces got untied on the way. I bent down and wanted to tie them. However, he moved his foot back and said to me,
"This act means to have somebody else do your work. I do not like my work to be done by others."
Abdullah bin Abbas narrates another exemplary act of the Prophet (pbuh) regarding the issue as follows:
"The Prophet did not allow anybody else to prepare water for him or to give his sadaqah to a poor person. He prepared water for wudu himself and when he wanted to give sadaqah to a poor person, he would give it with his own hands."
According to what Abdullah bin Jubayr narrates, once, the Prophet was walking with his Companions. The weather was very hot; therefore, one of the Companions wanted to make a shade over the head of the Prophet with his garment. When the Prophet saw it, he took the garment down and said, "Give it up. I am only a human being."
The Prophet (pbuh) did not find it appropriate when people hesitated and shivered when they saw him thinking that he was a king; he would soothe and comfort them.
Once, somebody started to shiver when he entered into the presence of the Prophet due to the majesty of the prophethood. When the Prophet saw him, he said, "Come to your senses. I am not a king. I am the son of a Qurayshi woman who ate dried salty bread."
In fact, a person who saw the Prophet (pbuh) for the first time would get excited. However, when he saw the compassion of the Prophet and his smile, he would feel relieved; and as he talked, the fear in him would be transformed into love.
The Prophet treated everybody equally no matter what their social status was, whether rich or poor, a widow or a maid; he never despised a person because of his lifestyle, because he was poor or a servant. He met their needs like the others and never acted conceitedly.
Adiyy bin Hatim, who became a Muslim after seeing the ultimate humbleness of the Prophet (pbuh), narrates his first impressions about the Prophet as follows:
"When I saw that there were his relatives, women and children with the Prophet (pbuh), I realized that he did not have the sultanate of the Persian King or the Byzantine Emperor.
While the Messenger of Allah was walking with me on the way to his home, he met a weak and old woman. There was also a small child with her. The woman waited and stopped him. He stopped. They said,
‘We want something from you.'The Messenger of Allah talked to them about their needs for a long time. He went with them, met their needs and returned.
I said to myself, 'By Allah! He is not a king.' Then, he took me to his house. He took a mattress full of date palm fibers and passed it to me. He said,
‘Sit on it.’ I said,
"No, please you sit on it.' He said,
‘No, you sit on it.’ Then, I sat on it and he sat on the ground."
The Prophet (pbuh) took care of everybody. He never looked down on anybody. He met the needs of the people that most people did not look at and did not pay attention to. For, his aim was to show people useful ways.
In Madinah, there was a woman who spoke recklessly, cursed and damned people and criticized them. Once, while the Prophet (pbuh) was sitting on the pavement and eating boiled meat, that woman passed by.
The woman said, "Look at this man. He is sitting on the ground like a slave and eating like a slave."
The Prophet said, "Is there a slave more enslaved than me?"
The woman said, "He is eating but he does not give me any."
The Prophet said, "Come and eat."
The woman said, "I will not eat unless you give me with your own hands."
Thereupon, the Prophet gave her a morsel but this time the woman said,
"I will not eat unless you give me the morsel in your mouth."
The Prophet took the morsel out of his mouth and gave it to the woman. The woman put it in her mouth at once. After eating that morsel, the woman became a modest and shy woman. She did not say any bad words to anybody after that. She became one of the chaste and good women of Madinah.
Adiyy bin Hatim is the son of Hatim at-Tai, who is famous for his generosity. He was taken to the presence of the Prophet (pbuh) when some of his army was enslaved by the army of Islam and he was defeated. The Prophet made him sit on the mattress while he himself sat on the ground. Besides, when he was with the commander of the enemy army, though he was defeated, he listened to the request of an old woman and met her needs.
He talked to the people of low ranks for Allah and he talked to his friends and enemies, in short, everybody, without needing any show off or ceremony. Thus, he actually changed the customs and habits that people had been accustomed to and replaced them with the correct and more appropriate ones.
A group that Arabs despised and looked down on was slaves. They never sat, walk or ate with them. The Prophet (pbuh) himself eliminated this bad habit.
According to what the Companions narrated, when the slaves invited him to eat even barley bread, he accepted their invitation and ate their food. For, being slaves did not mean that they had to be overlooked and despised.
When the Prophet (pbuh) was with his Companions, he never regarded himself different from them. He acted together with them; he would not choose a separate place for himself; he would join the work to be done and help them.
Once, Hz. Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet, offered him to sit at a separate place by saying that he was sitting squeezed among the Companions and that the people who passed by disturbed him:
"O Messenger of Allah! Let us build a bower under which you can sit in the shade."
The Prophet did not regard such a privilege appropriate and rejected it by saying,
"I will show patience to my Companions stepping on my shoes and pulling my cardigan until I die."
During an expedition, the Prophet (pbuh) asked his Companions to slaughter a sheep and cook it. One of the Companions said,
"O Messenger of Allah! I will slaughter it."
Another one said,
"O Messenger of Allah! I will cook it."
Another one said,
"I will skin it."Thus, they shared the tasks.
The Prophet said,
"I will collect wood."
The Companions did not want to accept it, They said,
"O Messenger of Allah! There are enough people to do it. You do not have to work."
Thereupon, the Prophet showed his unique humbleness and said,
"I know that there are enough people to do it but I do not want to be in a privileged position. For, Allah does not want His slave to be in a privileged position among his Companions."
Before the Battle of Khandaq, all of the Companions worked while the trenches were being dug; they were doing their best to finish digging as soon as possible. The Prophet (pbuh), who was the best example, took a pickaxe and worked, without heeding himself different. He had a stone wrapped around his abdomen due to hunger.
The Prophet worked in the construction of Masjid Quba and Masjid an-Nababwi in Madinah like a worker; he carried bricks with the Companions.
Hz. Aisha, Hz. Hasan and Abu Said al-Khudri narrates the family life of the Prophet (pbuh) as follows:
"The Prophet did not remain behind locked doors or curtains; he did not want people to bring food to him in plates. He sat on the ground and ate there."
His rank elevated as he acted humbly.
He said, "Allah will elevate a person who acts humbly." He lived in accordance with this principle and set a model to people.
Hz. Husayn asked his father, Hz. Ali, about how the Messenger of Allah acted outside. Hz. Ali described him as follows:
"The Prophet did not speak if there was not something important. He always had good relations with people around him. He did not make them feel scared.
He respected and honored the respected ones of every nation. He also chose a leader for them. He warned people about Allah's punishment; he never lacked in courtesy toward others. He was concerned for them.
He asked about his Companions when they were absent and made himself aware about them. When he met people, he asked them,'How is it going?' He praised good things and supported them. He reacted against bad things and refuted them.
All of the acts of the Prophet were consistent. He had no inconsistent attitudes. He was always alert so that his Companions would not neglect their affairs or feel fed up.
For everything, he had a special arrangement and solution. The best people in the eye of the Prophet were those who did favors to others. The ones with the highest status in the eye of the Prophet were those who shared the problems of the people and helped them."
Hz. Husayn asked his father, Hz. Ali, about how the Prophet was in meetings and talks. Hz. Ali described him as follows:
"The Prophet sat down and stood up with the dhikr of Allah. When he went to a place where people sat, he would not sit in the best place; he sat wherever he found a place, and also instructed the people around him to do so.
The Prophet gave the following order regarding the issue:
'When one of you goes to a place where people are sitting, he should sit at the place that is shown to him; otherwise, he should sit at an appropriate place.'
The Prophet asked the people around him how they were and complimented them. He treated people so sincerely that everybody would think that they were the most valuable people in the eye of the Prophet.
When a person came and sat by the Prophet too long or came to him for some purpose, the Prophet would wait patiently until that person left. Whenever one asked him for something, he would kindly fulfill that request, or he would give a soft answer. He never rejected anyone.
His generosity, soft language and high ethics spread so much among people that he was like a father to them.
Everybody was equal before him like his children as far as rights were concerned.
The meetings of the Prophet were a place where ethical values like knowledge, modesty, trust and patience were taught. Voices were not raised therein, nor was anyone degraded or disgraced. If anyone committed a fault, it was not made known publicly.
All were regarded as equal in his presence. The virtue of one over the other was according to the taqwa. Everybody was humble. The old ones were respected and the young ones were loved.
The needy were given privilege in his meetings. Strangers and travelers were cared for."
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